Text messages will begin appearing on the cell-phone screens of men’s college basketball recruits starting June 15, after a new NCAA rule takes effect allowing college coaches to send unlimited text messages to players who have completed their sophomore year of high school.
Coaches also will be able to make unlimited calls to those recruits under the new legislation.
A move aimed at weeding out superfluous bylaws in the NCAA manual, the game-changing measure is a departure from current rules that forbid communication via text and limit coaches to one phone call per recruit in a month.
“I would have a concern with the word unlimited, and I certainly think a parent would be uncomfortable with the word unlimited,” Whitmer basketball coach Bruce Smith said. “As a college coach, you have to have common sense to know when you’re recruiting a kid actively and when you’re quote-unquote stalking a kid.”
Text messages were outlawed by the NCAA five years ago amid concerns of excessive use and athletes accruing astronomical charges. Advancement in technology and the rise of unlimited text plans have created an atmosphere to revisit the issue, with men’s basketball set to be the guinea pig.
No other sports have adopted the reform, although women’s coaches could follow by next year.
“I think a lot of women’s coaches want to sit back and watch and see how that goes before they jump on the bandwagon,” University of Toledo (UT) coach Tricia Cullop said.
Preliminary returns are mixed, with coaches standing to benefit the most, and recruits being rendered a standing duck in an onslaught of 140-character missives.
“I’m kind of curious to see what it brings in those first couple of days,” said Jordan Lauf of Napoleon, Ohio, who counts UT and Bowling Green State University among his six scholarship offers.
Some theorize the change could result in quicker commitments, a recruit’s way of surrendering to the constant buzzing of his phone.
A reduction in transfers is another possibility, as coaches and recruits are granted more time to size up each other. About 425 NCAA Division I players transferred after last season, according to CBSSports.com, a figure that exceeds the number of teams (347).
“This allows the recruit and the family the ability to build a better relationship,” Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said. “It helps in the long run, because you know who they are and they know who you are.”
UT coach Tod Kowalczyk advocates the change, believing the deregulation of minor rules makes it easier for the NCAA and for university compliance officers to “go after the truly important violations.” He recognizes dangers, though, such as a coach disrupting the life of a 16-year-old.
“I really hope that families put up parameters of when college coaches can call or text and hold those coaches accountable,” Kowalczyk said. “The last thing I want is for my staff to burden a family in their family time.”
Minimized is the role of high school coaches, used previously by college coaches to circumvent rules restricting phone calls. Instead of navigating back channels to set up a meeting with a recruit, coaches will proceed unassisted.